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ICHRP Statement for International Human Rights Day December 10, 2022


The Philippines has its new President Marcos but remains a killing ground for political dissidents, community organizers, indigenous people, rights advocates, and alleged drug suspects. The machinery of terror set up by the Duterte Regime under its “shoot-to-kill” and arbitrary arrest policies remains firmly in place. As we mark International Human Rights Day, ICHRP denounces the ongoing violations of political, social and economic rights and attacks on freedom of speech and the press that continue under the Marcos Government.   

At least 10 peace consultants have been murdered by the Philippine government since it withdrew from the peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in 2017. Most recently, NDFP peace consultant Ericson Acosta and peasant organizer Joseph Jimenez were detained and then executed in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, on November 30. The two were captured by elements of the 94th and 47th Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army. The military attempted to cover up the murder by projecting Acosta as an armed combatant at the time of his death. Locals said no firefight nor encounter had occurred. Another NDFP peace consultant Pedro Codaste was killed on January 21, 2022, by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This case also involved allegations of abduction and torture by the security forces. The execution of prisoners by the AFP represents a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law.

Negros has been the scene of ongoing state violence over the past several months, with reports of widespread aerial bombing of civilians in early October 2022, most notably in Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental. Bombing incidents lasting for 20 minutes were reported as well in Sitio Cunalom and parts of Casipungan, Cambulan, Pangi and Igaw, all of Barangay Carabalan. In the same areas residents were forced to flee their homes, with up to 2,500 persons heading for evacuation centers on October 6, after the AFP brought in artillery and conducted indiscriminate firing on the communities. Indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery strikes on communities by the AFP represents a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. 

The media remains under attack from the Marcos government. Cyber Libel Laws have been used in attempts to both silence and close down independent media and have produced a litany of charges against Nobel Peace Prize winning journalist Maria Ressa. Journalists continue to be killed by state actors under the Marcos government, including the recent death of on-air personality Percy Lapid, killed by unidentified gunman allegedly under the direction of the head of the Department of Corrections. The Philippines remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. 

The War on Drugs also continues under the Marcos government, despite protestations to the contrary. The Marcos government attended the 41st Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on November 14, 2022. The new government promised “real justice in real time”, claiming they are taking concrete measures to correct the wrongs of the Duterte government. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the change of government, all the machinery and instruments of state terror continue to function. Police anti-drug operations continue to extra-judicially target poor people, with impunity. Recent data from the Third World Studies Center in Manila indicates there have been  127 drug killings by police between Marcos’ inauguration on July 1st and November 7, 2022 – the Duterte policy rolling on. The Anti-Terrorism Act with its broad sweeping powers and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), along with the Philippine National Police and the AFP, continue to operate as mechanisms to crush dissent and to violate the civil and political rights of citizens. No one is spared.

The Marcos government claims it is addressing the drug war killings, and claim to have investigated 17,000 police officers and filed 15 charges in the first six months. On the one hand, this suggests that there are 17,000 police involved in 6,600 officially-acknowledged drug war killings. And on the other hand, at this rate it will take the Philippine government approximately 1000 years to provide justice to the actual 30,000 odd victims of the Drug War. This would be an example of Justice Secretary Remulla’s “real justice in real time”!

Clearly, domestic remedies have failed, as elements of the judiciary are complicit in the war on dissent, using the bench to support military and police attacks on dissenters by providing broad powers though warrants of arrest that frequently ended in the summary deaths of the accused. The courts are just one element in the entire machinery of the state which has been weaponized in the fascist whole-of-nation approach to target regime opponents. 

In this context we urge the international community and international institutions to stand with the victims and those who struggle for democracy and human rights in the Philippines. We call for continued pressure through international mechanisms and international solidarity to push the Philippine government to action. To this end, we call for:

  1. Pressure on the UNHRC to conduct an independent investigation of the drug war killings and other political killings as called for in the June 2020 report of former UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet.
  2. The Philippine government to rejoin the International Criminal Court (ICC) and allow it to conduct investigations in the Philippines related to the Crime Against Humanity of murder and violations of International Humanitarian Law by the Duterte government.
  3. Pressure the Philippine government to stop red tagging – executive designation of individuals and organizations as terrorists, such as NDFP Peace Negotiator Luis Jalandoni in the Netherlands, and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.
  4. The Marcos government to cease all actions that undermine the re-commencement of the peace talks with the NDFP.
  5. Suspension of all international aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and counter-terrorism programs which would place weapons in the hands of those committing these grave human rights violations.
  6. National governments to introduce legislation to sanction key members of the Duterte government for their role in the well documented mass killings and the associated crimes against humanity.
  7. The Philippine Government to release all political prisoners.

Further we urge the International Criminal Court to pursue its case against former President Duterte and his senior officials, to follow the evidence and give voice to the victims.  

Further comment:
Peter Murphy
ICHRP Chairperson